Title: Strawberries

Rating: M

Summary: Some things must be broken completely before they can be fixed. Male Hawke/Fenris

A/N: Thanks for reading. Review please.

Chapter 5

So Hawke left with the rest of them in tow, making sure that Fenris would have no opposition as he exited the mansion. Much to the disapproval of Isabela, they all left without the elf. The trip back proved no less dull than the trip there, and Anders still avoided Hawke as though he were a potent poison. They did seem to melt back into their old friendship when they were forced to be together, though. They joked and laughed. Hawke found himself more than once remembering the fiery passion of the kiss and feeling almost wistful.

After a long trip on a boat that actually was meant to carry passengers, they docked in Kirkwall. Everyone went their separate ways save for Isabela who stayed behind with Hawke as he set his bag down on the cool, dusty earth and stared at the ground. He felt as though he'd just suffered a great loss. Sure, he had been brave and collected when he'd given that bag of coins over. He'd also meant every word he'd said. He knew, however, that when he went home to his big, empty house that the truth would hit him. He was finally all alone.

To succeed at saving Fenris's life and memory was more precious than anything he could have asked, but it had been his doing in the first place. The loss was a thick, heavy stone that sat in his gut and brought up unpleasant memories. Carver and his mother and Bethany, all lost in some way. Two were dead, gone forever. Fenris had been the only family he'd been able to touch, to hold. The elf had been more important than Hawke wanted to admit, and he felt a burning in his eyes.

Isabela didn't say a word, but she put her hand on his shoulder and squeezed lightly.

Some part of Hawke wanted to believe that Fenris would come home with him. It wasn't even mildly likely, but the heart longed. When faced with the absolute possibility that he had ruined everything, shattered completely what they had, he'd wanted Fenris to take some sort of payment from him. A ruptured heart or stomach was a small price to pay. His death in exchange for Fenris's life? He would have made the trade any day. Instead, he was home and safe with a just a few new scrapes while Fenris was on his own again, as cynical as the day they'd met.

Hawke gave Isabela a firm nod. Picking up his bag, they both headed their own ways.

Once back home, Hawke greeted Bodahn with as sincere a smile as he could manage given the circumstances. He politely declined telling the story just yet, but no, Fenris did not come back with them. Yes, they had rescued him. No, he didn't know where the elf was. Bodahn quickly realized that it would become a sensitive subject and ran a bath for him. Orana took his armor to clean. He was much more filthy than he thought, and he was very tired. It took him an hour to sew up the wound in his neck because his hand would fatigue from holding the mirror. After he was scrubbed and shaved and clean, though, Hawke retired to his room.

He slept the rest of the day and most of the night away. When dawn was just breaking over the horizon in a parade of bright pinks and yellows, he yanked on a fresh pair of cotton pants and a tunic and headed downstairs to begin his work. Bodahn greeted him cheerfully, and he was delighted to see Orana try to convince him to go back to bed. It had taken a lot of coaxing, but she was growing a backbone. After wolfing down his breakfast, he decided that work would probably take his mind off things.

It didn't. He found himself thinking of Fenris more than once. Everything he did seemed to bring up the elf's memory. When he took a bath, all he could think about was that morning before he found out Danarius had stolen Bethany and ruined their relationship. When he had to read anything, he thought of their lessons. Even the fireplace—where Fenris had braced his arm after their first passionate night of sex—brought up his smell and the familiar taste of his kisses.

Kissing, it turned out, brought up another memory. The ghost of Anders's lips lingered on his, burned like a seal into his mouth. Even though it was absolutely ridiculous, he felt as though he had somehow betrayed Fenris by allowing that. There was no denying that he had enjoyed it either. The gentle lap of pleasurable magic against his skin hadn't been bad. In fact, it had almost reminded him of the sea. It didn't matter that he had stopped it before anything had gone on. He still felt dirty.

When it was nearly dark, he donned his less heavy armor and made his way out into the street. It was abuzz with some sort of shopping seminar, the wide alleys filled to the brim with overflowing merchant wares. Hawke made his way around them and ducked down toward the darker areas of Kirkwall—away from the stuffy nobles and to a place where a man could pass out drunk in the safety of his own home and still be murdered. Darktown stank of rotten garbage and refuse, built so closely to the sewer. Poison merchants replaced hat shops and run down shacks replaced beautiful statues and architecture. Elves too poor to live in the alienage bled from the stone to grab at his pockets and beg for food and money. He stepped over quite a few drunkards to get to the clinic.

There was a distinguishable change in the air near Anders's clinic. Magic, for one, swirled about the place like a miasma. Hawke paid more than one Templar off to ignore the scent of it, leaking from the hospital as though there were a tear in the Veil itself. The stench of medicine was pronounced, antibiotics and sweet-smelling herbs and remedies. More than one patient stumbled out with new bandages or a writhing baby in their arms.

When Hawke slipped inside the clinic, he was met with the familiar smiles of Anders's part-time helpers. A blonde woman swiped hair from her sweaty forehead and smiled at him. The kid she was treating smiled to show off the new gaps in his teeth. "Anders!" she called into the backroom. "Your friend's here. Go right in, honey," she said to Hawke as he approached, finishing up the bandage on the child's arm. "He's probably just writing in that manifesto."

Thanking her, Hawke headed into the backrooms to see Anders scrubbing furiously at his hands. He glanced up at Hawke with a smile, but there was tension in his eyes. "What? Are we going on a daring adventure already? I have to say, I'm still tired. You may have to carry me," he teased.

"Not yet," the warrior indulged him, leaning against the wall and crossing his arms. "What have you been doing?" The water that Anders was washing his hands with was the unmistakable color of blood.

"Birthing a few babies," he answered with a shrug. "Twins, and screamers at that."

Hawke wrinkled his nose. "Ew," he didn't try to hide his disgust.

Anders laughed. "I'll make sure never to ask you for help."

"Don't get me wrong," Hawke said, "it's a beautiful thing and all. I just don't want to see it. Ever."

Mirth twinkled in the mage's eye as he wiped off his hands. They were still stained red, but the blood was gone. "Given your tendencies, I doubt that will be a problem." His shoulders tensed, and he slowly set down the rag. Obviously he hadn't meant to bring that up. Hawke sighed.

"We can't go on like this, Anders," he said, sliding around the water basin and setting a hand on Anders's shoulder. "We need to talk."

"There's nothing to talk about, Hawke," he answered. "You made your answer clear. If it's…if it's at all possible, I'd like to go back to being friends. You're the best friend I've ever had." Hawke had to swallow at the look in Anders's eyes. They were so sad, so desolate and begging at the same time. A shiver came over him at the remembered touch, and he felt that same guilt at betraying Fenris again. But should he feel guilt for having physical reactions? It was a thought for another time.

Hawke rolled his shoulders and crossed his arms, looking out toward the rest of the clinic. The soft scent of the sea snuck in sometimes. It added a crispness to the musky odor of Darktown. The warrior glanced at his mage counterpart, the drawn features. Anders was handsome, he supposed. There was a ruggedness about him and a tortured, hungry look. He was hungry for Justice, for power, and freedom. Maybe he deserved someone, but Hawke's heart beat for another person—a slightly less muscular, broodier person that was gone.

"I can't be what you want me to be, Anders," Hawke told him gently. "We can be friends, but I can't be more than that." He didn't want to give mixed signals. Their friendship was what he valued.

Anders let out a breath, swiping a hand through his hair. "I was stupid to do it in the first place. I'd like to…start again. If that's all right with you?" He held out a hand, and Hawke shook it.

"I'd like that, too."

Hawke felt better after mending things with Anders, and he stayed for another hour. Anders was always busy when he was at the clinic, so they talked quietly while Hawke handed him things like bandages or sutures. Work was great for keeping the mind busy, but he wanted to go check on Bethany. He left after an hour, and he managed to get in to visit his sister in the Circle.

He had visited the Circle in Ferelden once or twice to spy or gather information. It was nicer there with winding halls and a grand library. This was more like a prison, but Hawke attributed that more to the fact that the Gallows actually was a former prison rather than the fact that the people from Kirkwall seemed to have a major lack of tolerance when it came to mages. His sister was teaching a class when he was escorted to the library. The title of Champion did give him a few privileges. He crossed his arms and leaned against the door frame until she was done.

Tiny hands shot into the air as she asked a question, eager bodies bouncing up and down. Bethany was sickly, thinner than usual. Her skin was pale, and she walked with her arm tucked tightly against her ribs as if they still caused her pain. Even her long, black hair was lackluster. When the lecture ended, she turned to him and gave a tired smile. He moved around the young mages and enveloped her in a tight hug.

"You okay?" he asked as he pulled back.

"Yeah," she answered a little shakily, "as well as can be expected when you're waiting to be sentenced to death." There was a world of weariness in her voice that wasn't there before. Her eyes looked dull, but she was trying to inject a little bit of happiness into them. It made her face a myriad of pain.

He gripped her jaw gently and turned it from side to side, eyeing the bruises that were yellowing. A silver sheen over her face hid most of them as did some sort of makeup. Hawke figured they were probably worse than he was seeing. "I thought we took care of that." He hoped. A feeling of selfishness came over him. He'd been so preoccupied with wallowing that he hadn't given a thought to his sister's situation.

"It's over now," she said, prying his hand away. "Don't worry about it. Orsino and Aveline have it handled. More importantly, how are you doing?" Bethany had an amazing power, one even greater than her magic. She had their mother's intuition and the ability to see Hawke's pain even when he was trying his hardest to hide it. "You don't look like Fenris came back with you. Oh, Maker, is he…?" the mage's eyes widened frightfully.

"He's fine," Hawke assured her, taking her hands and squeezing her fingers. They were cold. He took a step back, massaging her knuckles. "At least, I think he is. He didn't come back with me—with us." The sorrow in his voice was audible even to his ears.

"Oh, Brother, I'm so sorry," her face crumpled. "This is all my fault."

"No, Bethany," he shook his head. "No, I don't want you blaming yourself. " Hawke cast a glance around. Two Templars were lingering against the wall, their faceless helmets seeming to stare right at them. There was definitely a feeling of tension in this Circle. He didn't like it. He didn't want his sister to be here. "You've got other things to worry about besides me. You know I can take care of myself."

Her gentle fingers touched his face, pads running over the scruff that was growing there. A day later and already he had a light stubble. Her cool fingers felt good on his feverish skin. "He was good for you, Brother. I'm sorry. What are you going to do now?"

"Yeah, me, too," he sighed. "I don't know what I'm going to do. Guess I'll focus on this whole mage versus Templar business." He squeezed her hand meaningfully. "Protecting what's left of my family." The smile was hollow and didn't touch his eyes.

"You're all I've got in the world," she told him sincerely, eyes twinkling. "I love you, but don't put my happiness above your own." It seemed like a warning. Hawke was about to reply when someone interrupted him.

"Bethany!" a voice called, and Hawke instantly recognized it as Orsino. His sister jumped nearly out of her skin and looked at him. Relief smoothed her features. "Oh, I apologize, Serah Hawke. I didn't recognize you," the enchanter paused before them. Hawke let go of her fingers, and they separated.

"No harm done," he shrugged. "I'm a little bruised."

"Yes, you are," Bethany eyed him. Her eyes zeroed in on every injury, seeking them out like a beacon. And he'd done his best to hide them, too.

"Uh, the next class is gathering. Adrianni is sick. Did you want to cover? Or are you otherwise preoccupied?" he glanced at the both of them, but he seemed to be asking Hawke more than her. The warrior tipped his head toward his sister in deference, holding up his hands.

Bethany stood on her toes and kissed Hawke's cheek. She lingered, whispering in his ear. "We better not spend too much time together. It'll give them ideas." She rubbed his shoulders before stepping back. "All right, Enchanter. We were just finishing."

"Take care of yourself, Champion," Orsino beamed as he turned to leave. Bethany smiled at him before leaving.

Hawke left as soon as her black hair disappeared around the doorframe.

At home, he fell onto his bed and took a nap for a few hours. Cogs crawled into bed with him and woke him up late in the evening. Orana brought him tea and cakes. At his request, she sat and penned a few lines for him. Her reading skills were getting better, and he insisted upon the lessons. Though he teased her about needing to practice more, he let her go early. All he could think about was holding Fenris in his arms while that warm voice read to him lines of romantic poetry and deep prose. It was meant to be a distraction. Unfortunately, it had the opposite effect.

Hawke only nibbled at the food offered to him, and the tea grew cold without so much as a glance. The former slave eventually snuck in to quietly whisk it all away. Hawke wrote in his journal for nearly an hour, and when the sun sunk below the horizon, he got up from his chair and stretched until his spine cracked unpleasantly. Padding over to the fireplace, he stared at the flames for another five minutes.

It felt like he was waiting. He didn't know what for, and he eventually gave up and went to bed. He lay awake for what seemed to be hours, his dog snoring peacefully by the dead fire. Hawke tossed and turned, staring at the canopy over his head. Eventually he fell into what seemed a limbo—a place between consciousness and unconsciousness. Every little sound made him jump in surprise, jolting him awake as though someone had dumped cold water on his face. He stayed in that state for so long that he didn't understand what was reality and what was a dream.

He heard the footsteps in a state of acute sense, and he started awake as he had been doing for the last few hours. Cogs had long since abandoned his vigil, and Hawke was alone. He reached over in the dark to grab the sword he kept stashed beneath the bed. The cool handle helped to slow his palpitating heart, and the rush of blood was just a little quieter in his ears. Gently, he eased himself out of the bed and wiggled his toes against the carpet.

Straining though he was, he couldn't hear any other noises. The room was far too dark to see anything, and surely Cogs would have noticed an intruder way before he did. Easing up until his back was pressed against his wardrobe, he ran his hand along the wood until his palm was flat against the top. Fingers closed over his flint, and he used his feet to feel his way toward the fireplace. If he could light the fire, he could at least see what he was fighting.

Holding his breath, he struck the flint and threw the sparks onto the tinder in the hearth. It burst into flames, and at the same time something hard struck him from the side. His sword was knocked from his hand, clattering against the wall. He grappled, kicking out with his foot, but whoever it was expected this move. Long fingers wrapped around his ankle and stopped the motion. Suddenly he was looking into endless eyes, obsidian orbs that bled with emotion. Hawke's breath caught in his chest, and he surely hoped he wasn't dreaming.

Fenris smelled of rain and leather. The scent overwhelmed Hawke's senses to a point of pain. At the same time, his heart seemed to stop beating. Droplets of rainwater dripped down from snowy hair and onto his bare abdomen. There was such an expression on the elf's face that he had never seen before. It was a potent mixture of pure desire, pain, and tragedy. Hurt forgotten, Hawke wanted to hold him so badly. He truly hoped that the Maker wouldn't be so cruel as to torture him with such an image.

"Fenris, what are you—" but he never got to finish because Fenris knocked their mouths together in his typical way. There was such familiarity in that action that Hawke's stomach flipped at the sound of ivory meeting ivory. The kiss was all teeth and tongue, no gentle nips as usual. Hard fingernails trailed down his belly and over his hips, scratching and digging. Fenris was on top of him, weight pressing down. His armor cut deep, cold metal making him hiss. He was soaked to the bone. His teeth were sharp, and his hair was soft as it brushed against Hawke's face. Lanky, moist limbs tangled quickly with his. Hawke buried his hands into that soaking hair, nails digging into the elf's scalp.

If it were a dream, he was going to enjoy it.

They broke for breath, but Fenris didn't stop for a second. He trailed kisses down over Hawke's jaw and biting at his collarbone almost viciously. Pointed, elven teeth sank deeply into the stitches at his neck, and he yelped in surprise as the blood flowed. When Fenris pulled back, it dripped from his mouth. He appeared a vampire, bronze skin lit with firelight while his silken lips dripped with crimson. The next kiss was less awkward, but it tasted of iron and pure desire. Hawke sank into it, pulling Fenris down and crushing the lithe body to him, drinking deeply of his flavor and ferocity.

The elf shifted slightly, and they were moving against each other. Fenris's sharp, armored fingers cut deep into his hips, parting skin and lighting nerves on fire. The pain was intense. It made Hawke's arousal flag for a moment, but the feeling got better when a warm tongue ghosted over his chest. The air became colder, warm skin pressed flush against him. The elf was wasting no time, fumbling with the drawstring at Hawke's waist. With shaking fingers, he unclipped Fenris's armor as quickly as possible. It fell to the side with a clatter, and Hawke dug his nails into Fenris's upper back in an attempt to pull him even closer. The sharp metal of his gauntlets bit deep into Hawke's skin. They bruised his bones, but he didn't want Fenris to stop.

The feeling of lyrium pulsing against his skin was much better than any type of magical wave that Anders could conjure. The buzzing on his tongue was exotic and electric as he licked at the markings that were glowing with a faint light. Delicious pain mixed with undeniable pleasure, and Hawke couldn't remember for the life of him why he had lingered so long on the mage's touch. This was violent. This was intense, and it was all he ever wanted. The feeling was narcotic, and he arched against his lover's touch as Fenris slammed his shoulders into the floor and kissed a teasing path down his stomach.

Their relationship was sweeter than strawberries, more tumultuous than a hurricane.

Hawke loved him more than his heart could bear.

He gasped as Fenris took a bud into his mouth and swirled his tongue around. Everything became sensation: touch, taste, smell, hear. He could hear his own groans and Fenris's rapid panting. He could feel the silken skin, warm lips, raw pleasure, and searching hands. The taste of earthy rain and salty sweat mixed together with Fenris's own unique flavor as they kissed again. The entire room smelled of the musk of sex and leather.

Accustomed to their grappling, Hawke gripped Fenris's shoulders tightly and flipped him over. Fenris didn't like that though. He growled, pressing their mouths together and flipping them over again so that Hawke's head nearly hit the fireplace. The dangerous glow was almost too much, burning as brightly as their passion. It lit the fine sheen of sweat forming on their bodies, connecting them in a chemical way. Fenris ran a thumb over his cheekbone, nipping lightly at his lips, more gently, nearly subdued. "No," he whispered against the open mouth.

"Fenris, why—" the elf put a hand over his mouth, trailing down with tongue and teeth. Hawke had never thought to feel him again, to touch or taste as he wanted. Now he was holding Fenris in his arms, and he was asking why. Hawke ran his hands down the elf's sides, feeling the shifting muscle and pointed ribs. Lyrium burned softly against his skin. Things became frantic again as Fenris bit at his stomach.

A hand slipped beneath his drawstrings and grasped him firmly, stroking with a gentleness that didn't match their hurried touches and moans and whispers. Yet despite the hurried pace the elf was setting, Hawke matched it only with a kindness and patience. He pulled Fenris up to kiss him rather than yank him and crush their mouths together. He didn't bite, only allowed himself to be bitten. Any blood drawn was his, not Fenris's. Hadn't he hurt him enough?

A rather hard tug made Hawke throw his head back, smacking it on the hard floor. He dug his nails into Fenris's shoulders, panting heavily. The kisses became so frequent that he couldn't breathe. He had to gasp several times, breathing through his nose even. Fenris had him writhing in pleasure, toes curling, teeth sinking into his lip. Then Fenris pulled back and watched him with lacquer eyes that glittered mysteriously in the dim light. They shown as pools of darkness, filled to the brim with some emotion.

Hawke gasped as he spilled over, calling out Fenris's name into the heated room. The elf tipped his head forward, their foreheads meeting as Fenris kissed him slowly and deeply. Hawke broke away and sucked in a deep breath, shriveled lungs desperate for air. When Fenris threatened to pull back, Hawke grabbed him and flipped him over. The elf was still wearing his pants and gauntlets. An emotionless mask had come over his face, and he lay panting on his back, fists clenched at his sides.

A thumb came up to carefully trace the shape of his lips, the lines under his chin. They were luminescent, sparkling like magic. Fenris probably wouldn't have appreciated the comparison. "Why?" the elf asked suddenly, turning his eyes away. "Why did I come back?"

Hawke felt his heart give a tug. "You want me to give you an answer?"

"You always have," Fenris panted, fingers coming up to touch Hawke's face, thumbs just beneath his eyes. "Why not now?"

The human thought, catching his breath. "Because you have to figure some things out by yourself, Fenris. That's the meaning of being free."

"I don't know freedom," he closed his eyes, swallowing painfully. This was obviously difficult for him. Hawke had never heard him speak so much of his heart. "I only know slavery and corruption and that I want this. That I want you."

"You have me," Hawke told him, brilliant blue meeting dark obsidian.

"Where does this leave us?" Fenris wondered. "Does this mean that things can go on as they did before? Please, Hawke, guide me." He truly looked like a frustrated child, desperately grasping at a profound situation to find the meaning.

Hawke took pity on him. "You're here, and you don't have to forgive me. Just stay. I want you here if you want to be here."

"I wouldn't have come otherwise," Fenris murmured as though this were obvious. "I—nothing could be worse than the thought of living without you. You've poisoned me, Hawke. I can't bear being alone anymore." He swallowed. "I was…happy when I was with you. I want things to go on as they did before. "

The human thought for an infuriatingly long time. The sound of their hearts beating, breaths slowing, and the crackle of the fire added to the tension. Hawke was more than willing, but he didn't want any animosity between them. So after a moment, he kissed Fenris and whispered in his pointed ear, "Your choice. It's always been your choice."

Fenris made his choice, the heat of it pressing into Hawke's thigh. They tossed, turned, and knocked over several of Hawke's books as the human lifted the elf onto the table. Everything became a blur, but Hawke remembered a few select details after that. Hawke remembered the undeniable ecstasy as he and his lover became complete again. He remembered flipping Fenris over and taking him again and again until the morning light burned away what was left of the fire and showed Hawke every last inch of those dark eyes and what they wanted. He recalled lying on the ground, warm and wanting but exhausted. Just before falling asleep, he remembered whispering, "I love you," to Fenris.

He also remembered Fenris saying, "I know, Hawke," before he drifted away.

Fenris woke in the morning to the feel of a warm body pressed against his with such intimacy that he nearly jumped away in surprise. He didn't. A moment after he opened his eyes, he recognized the musky scent of Hawke's cologne. He recognized the tantalizing feeling of waking up with spongy bones and deliciously sore muscles from their efforts the night before. Mostly, he knew the scent of sex was in the air.

The night before…he'd just pulled into Kirkwall when he'd been on his way 'home.' Hawke's home had been so teasingly close, his lover so within reach. It had nearly a week's voyage to get back, and the entire time he'd been trying to convince himself that he was going back only for his things. When he'd paused on the docks with all his possessions with him, then he'd realized what he'd really come back for: his lover, partner, and greatest friend. Hawke's voice called out from a ghostly mass of a crowd, no longer there, just a memory of the past. The human had been calling his name that day. Fenris had just been too preoccupied with brooding to notice it.

The feelings were still conflicting, still murky. On one hand, he was furious with Hawke for not telling him that Danarius had Bethany. He was angry at himself for so readily thinking the worst of Hawke. He was frustrated that Hawke had not trusted him enough. He was also maddeningly relieved to find out that Hawke hadn't betrayed him. It had been the human's intention to save him all along. And he remembered what he had been thinking in that desolate cell while awaiting his second execution. Hawke did cross an ocean for him. He did fight an army of mages, and he almost sacrificed his life. Hawke, after all, was awful at fighting magic.

Untangling himself carefully from their mess of limbs, Fenris began to get dressed quickly. He'd been so confused the night before, but when he'd seen Hawke tossing around in the bed like that—so torn up over something—he'd needed to be there. Fenris was not the type of person to be overcome with mindless passion. He was also not the kind of person to fall head-over-heels in love. Yet, that was what it felt like. He loved Hawke, and he'd nearly confessed it while pressed intimately between the floor and his lover's heavy body. Maybe sex hadn't been the best response to his anger. Maybe he'd been a little rough the night before, he thought as he glanced at Hawke's sleeping form.

The scratches stretched from Hawke's shoulder blades to the small of his back. There were bite marks on every inch, visible and not. The stitches in his neck were open, torn by Fenris's teeth. The lingering metallic taste of blood was still on his lips, as sweet as Hawke's kisses. Bruises in the shape of an elf's hands were forming on slender hips and defined upper arms. Fenris strapped his last gauntlet on and sighed.

Perhaps they should have talked more first, but he was so very weary of talking. Acting made him feel like less of a coward, because when they talked Hawke did most of the talking. Fenris listened and agreed or disagreed occasionally. Violently jumping Hawke in the middle of the night would not have solve their problems had Hawke been anyone else, but he didn't regret doing it. Hawke never made him regret their coupling. Even when he was drawing blood and scratching and hurting more than loving Hawke had only touched him with the gentlest of hands, the most profound patience.

And more love in his eyes than he'd ever seen in a person.

It made him feel inadequate, like he had been on the one to betray. It also made him ashamed to think that Hawke could make a decision like that without pain. He'd truly believed that Hawke didn't want him, that he'd met another Danarius that didn't carry a staff. He was foolish to think that of his friend and blind to think that of his lover. He felt tainted, unworthy, but oddly satisfied. He supposed that they had solved something the night before. Their breathless exchange lifted Fenris's heart. He felt happier about it.

As for what he felt about Hawke trading him for Bethany, he felt a deep understanding beneath his childish emotions of anger and jealousy. Once upon a time, he had loved Varania before he knew her. Would he have traded Hawke's life for hers? No. Would he have traded them temporarily and raced off to another land to save Hawke the moment he could? Yes, and without a doubt. The logic was there, it was just buried under flagging emotion.

Fenris didn't like to admit to emotion. Hadriana was the cause for that. If she found out that he favored something or someone, she would take it or them away. If she knew something hurt him, she would do it more often. So he'd learned to cope, as it were. Things turned out better when he did that. Hiding behind a emotionless mask kept him safer, and he'd clung to it out of survival even when he didn't need it anymore.

The elf sighed and sank down on the bed. Bodahn hadn't come in, so it was probably early morning at least. The room was a scattered mess, books thrown, the fire burned out, Hawke's flint lost among the ashes. His sword lay half underneath the bed which was mussed with all the pillows on the floor and the blankets and sheets dragged into the middle of the room. After such a flurry of sex and passion, Hawke had made them a tiny pallet on the floor rather than crawling back to the wreckage of the bed. Everywhere, clothes were scattered. Why no one had entered because of the noise was baffling.

Hawke rolled onto his back, fingers splayed over his belly. He was growing a bit of stubble on his chin, a particularly large bruise forming on his jaw just beneath his ear. Fenris felt an acute embarrassment. The moment that Isabela saw the state of him, she would never let Fenris live it down. As for what would happen when the human woke up, Fenris didn't know. He hoped Hawke would sleep a little longer. He wanted a chance to go home and change, maybe take a warm bath to wash the stink of the sea from his skin. He also wanted to think of what he might say. Hawke looked as though he needed the sleep, anyway. Dark circles were forming around his eyes.

Fenris stood up from the bed and gently padded around Hawke's prone form. Grabbing his weapon from the mess of clothes and scattered bits of debris, he gently opened the door and eased his way out. Morning was just spilling over the carpet at the top of the stairs when Fenris left Hawke's mansion.

Hawke was startled out of his dream sometime during midday to the sound of incessant knocking at his door. He was lying naked on the floor, one arm thrown over his eyes to block out the light while the other was cast out to the side, palm up with his fingers spread open. His first instinct was to look for Fenris, and he blinked blearily at the cold place beside him. His heart sank as he thought for just a moment that it had in fact been a dream. Then he felt the acute pain that came with making love to the elf. Bite marks burned like brands all over his body, bruises the shapes of fingers marring his hips and thighs. He threw back the blankets to see them, angry red and purple.

The knocking became more insistent, and he cast an annoyed glare at the door before tucking a blanket around his hips and opening it. He didn't get what he expected. A hand caught him in the chest and sent him tumbling onto his back with a thump. A flash of dark skin cloaked in tattered pieces of white flashed in front of him. A heel settled on his chest, and he groaned.

Isabela peeked over her scantily clad cleavage, staring down at him with twinkling eyes. "Hey," she said, holding up a bottle. "Want to talk about it?" Her eyes darkened as they roved over his naked form, the bites and bruises and scratches. She raised an eyebrow and—without taking her foot from his chest—nudged the door open all the way to take in the state of his room. She grinned wolfishly. "Looks like someone already talked about it."

"Get off," Hawke said, pushing her foot away.

"Wow, you move on quickly," she said with approval, shoving the bottle into his hands and kicking the pile of blankets. "So who was it? Ugh, don't tell me it was Jethann. If it was, I owe that filthy whore three sovereigns."

"What? You made a bet with Jethann over whether or not I would bed him after Fenris left me?" he was momentarily distracted.

"No," she said, feigning innocence. "I made a bet with him over whether or not you would bed him ever. He's quite fond of you, you know." She crossed her arms. "But you're avoiding the question. Who was it?"

"Fenris," Hawke said, handing her the bottle as he dropped the blanket around his waist and went in search for pants. Isabela was a bit a voyeur. It wouldn't be the first time she had seen him naked. He fished a pair of trousers and underclothes from his wardrobe and began pulling them on.

Isabela squeaked. "Those bruises and scratches are from him? Did you fight or have sex?" her voice sounded bewildered.

"It was a bit…violent," Hawke admitted, turning around.

She uncorked the bottle of wine and took a long dreg, Adam's apple bobbing as she swallowed. "So…where is he?" she glanced around as if Hawke would be hiding him somewhere.

"Gone," he answered. "I woke up this morning to your damned knocking, and he was gone." Hawke grabbed his tunic from the bed and a white undershirt and proceeded to tug them both on. Isabela set the bottle of wine on the chimney and deftly buttoned his overcoat for him, smoothing the collar when she was finished.

"Do you think he's coming back?"

"I don't know," Hawke admitted, "but it was nice to see him."

With a sigh, Isabela patted his chest. "You love him, don't you?" Hawke smiled at her.

"You know, when I met Fenris, I had never looked at an elf like that. They're pretty, but I never really wanted to touch one. They're a bit like porcelain dolls, so small and breakable. He was different," Hawke told her, a wistfulness coming into his eyes. "I'd say it was love at first sight, but that's cliché. I just knew that I wanted to know him. You had to notice it to. He carried himself with such a cold detachment, and he was always on guard. I didn't want to fix him, but I wanted to understand why he was broken." Pulling away from her, he went to stand near the fireplace and stare at the cooling ashes.

"I didn't want more than friendship at first, but the possibility of more left me drunk. After that night when we killed Hadriana, and he came here…I thought it was a bad idea. He was there, though, and I let him lead me into bed," Hawke's smile turned sad. "It was a mistake, and it shouldn't have happened like that. Maybe he wouldn't have avoided me for three years if I'd been more careful with him."

"You can't blame yourself for that," Isabela protested, coming up to put a comforting hand on his shoulder. He shrugged.

"It wasn't my fault, but I should have stopped it. I knew I was in love, but what was he feeling? Lust? We should have been sure before plunging headlong into it. It's not like just having sex when you care. Feelings are important," Hawke glanced at her. "I'm sure you understand what I'm talking about."

Glancing away and biting her lip, she grudgingly admitted that she did.

"Right," Hawke sighed. "Three years later, he wanted to try again. It took my almost dying to get him to come around. Kissing by the fireplace and the events that followed that…I was so happy that I ignored my family. Bethany got caught up in our dangerous lives. I lost Fenris again."

"You got him back," Isabela told him fiercely. "Sweetheart, you take so much blame onto yourself for things no one can control. You need to lighten up." She reached out to take the bottle and gently wrapped his fingers around the neck. "He'll probably be back before you know it."

"Why, Isabela," he stared at her, "is that reassurance I hear in your voice?"

"Absolutely not," she mocked injury. "I can't believe you would even think that."

Hawke sipped at the wine and recognized the taste immediately. He frowned at Isabela. "This is from my wine cellar."

"You nobles," she rolled her eyes. "Wine is good for drinking. Not for saving." She put her finger in front of his face and bumped him on the nose with it. With sashaying hips, she made her way out of the room. "Meet me at the Hanged Man later if you want. We can have drinks."

He watched her go and drank deeply of the bottle, nearly finishing it off. Later, when Orana came in and gave a squeak of surprise to find his room in such disarray, he apologized profusely to her. She wouldn't hear it, insisting it was her job to clean. He was so proud of her, but he still cleaned up his desk and helped her carry the blankets down to where they could be washed.

Once they had put the blankets in the washroom, he stopped her outside the door. "Are you happy here, Orana?" he asked her curiously. Her cheeks reddened.

"How could I not be, Master? You treat me with such kindness, you and Master Fenris." A small smile graced her pink lips. "I am so glad you saved me from that awful place. I am so glad that you are my master."

He couldn't help the smile that tugged at his mouth, and he insisted that they all eat lunch together. Orana cooked a wonderful meal, and when they were finished she managed to stop trembling long enough to put a healing ointment on his back and the deep wound in his neck. It hurt, but he didn't let it show. Her technique was sloppy, hands too shaky to do it right. He still appreciated the effort, but he sewed his own stitches and asked her to hold the mirror instead. She did that well.

By the time night had fallen, everything was back in order. A gentle rain fell outside, and Hawke spent a good portion of the night scribbling in his notebook while curled up in the windowsill and looking out at Hightown. He tried not to think of Fenris. The elf would come back when he willed. Hawke had no desire to cage him like an animal.

As candles were doused and everyone else went to bed, Hawke went downstairs and drew a bath. For nearly an hour he sat while the water soaked away his aches and pains, both physical and emotional. He drank the rest of the bottle of wine, feeling a pleasant buzz in his limbs. It wasn't enough to impair his senses. When the water became unbearably cold, he dried himself off and pulled on a fresh pair of pants to go to bed.

Entering the room with a towel over his head, he glanced down to see he was about to step on a book. The leather case was embossed with a tree on the front, large and swirling writing scrawled across the top. Eyebrows furrowed, he bent down to pick it up. A deep voice startled him.

"You're late," it accused, and Hawke glanced up in surprise. Fenris was there, dressed in soft clothing while his armor rested by the fire, lightly speckled with rain. The elf's hair was damp, and he had his own towel tossed over Hawke's chair, drying.

For a moment, Hawke floundered. Then he realized what night it was. They were supposed to be reading. He was late. "You were prepared," he teased, repeating the same line Fenris had used on him so many nights ago.

Fenris smiled slightly. "Let's just say that I was hopeful. It sounds better." Languidly, he stretched out his long arm and fingers. Hawke tossed the towel to the ground near the fire as he approached and secured the book in the elf's hand, curling his own fingers over the smaller, longer ones. Fenris glanced down at the wound on his neck, and his eyes darkened. "I was careless last night. I apologize."

"Don't," Hawke kissed him. He let go of the book and put his hands around the slim elf's waist, guiding him to the bed. Fenris held onto the leather cover with both hands, allowing himself to be moved. Hawke crawled onto the duvet, leaning his back against the headboard. Fenris sank into his lap, back pressed against the human's chest. It was amazing just how small he was. Hawke put his head onto the elf's shoulder. "Chapter three, I believe."

Silently, Fenris opened the book and thumbed through it to start. His voice vibrated against Hawke's chest, heartbeats in sync.

Maybe one day they would have to talk about it. Maybe one day Hawke would sit the ex-slave down and force him to lay his heart bare again just to show him that he would never reject Fenris's feelings, good or bad. They still had a lot to learn about and from each other, but Hawke felt that their relationship had strengthened ten-fold. They had been tested in the flame and purified for it. They had escaped total destruction by covering it up. Maybe one day they would have to pay for that.

For now, it's enough to simply be, Hawke thought, pressing a kiss to the space behind Fenris's ear.

It's finished. Thanks for your reviews. You are a darling bunch of readers. I have another story in mind for these two. Not a sequel, just another MaleHawke/Fenris fanfiction. Hopefully it'll go by as fast as this one did. We'll see how much homework I have. Thanks for reading. Oh, and if you catch any typos let me know immediately, and they will be fixed. Did you like the ending? Too cheesy? Was it in character? Let me know in a review.